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Tuesday, January 5, 2010

marital status in a cover letter

A reader writes:

My husband and I moved to Denver from New York in May 2008. We are now headed back to New York due to my husband’s job situation. I am starting to send out resumes to find a job in NY, and in my cover letter I want to address why my current job is located in Denver though I’m applying for jobs in New York. Currently, I have the following paragraph, but I’ve read that you shouldn’t disclose any personal information about age, marital status, race, etc. in a job application/cover letter:

"I should clarify that I am currently in the process of moving back to Manhattan after a move to Denver due to my husband's work. He is being transferred back to New York in early 2010. I will be in town January 14-20 and should be permanently resettled in New York shortly thereafter. I don't require relocation assistance and would be able to start within the standard 2-week time frame should an offer be made."
Do you think this is okay? I’m not sure how to explain the situation without mentioning my husband.

I think this is fine, but I also think it would be just as fine if you removed "due to my husband's work" and the sentence about his transfer. You make it so clear and definite that you're moving in a specific timeframe that I don't think you need to get into the whys in order to be convincing.

Anyone want to disagree?


sara said...

I agree, just omit the details about husband because the point is you ARE moving back and they haven't asked why... but this begs the question, if you score an interview and they ask what you brought you there, is it ok to say why? I've always answered honestly in interviews that I relocated for my boyfriend, and haven't see that it was an issue, often if sets up a conversation simply about his type of work and the conversation often has a more relaxed tone... but... should we exercise caution? Do potential employers think we will up and leave again? Are we sharing too much personal info? How to answer if we shouldn't give it away...?

Abby said...

After having a baby and getting a job that was actively discriminatory against working mothers, I have finally decided to just let it all hang out. I don't bring up my kids and husband but I do mention them if it comes up. We relocated to a different state a year and a half ago for my husband's job and I did tell interviewers why we moved. It might have been puzzling otherwise as not a lot of people move to my new town just because. Interestingly, it did work in my favor in the end because people are impressed that my husband works for his company. It is known for only hiring the best of the best and I think people thought that I must be good too by association.

However, in a really competitive market and if I didn't have kids, I probably wouldn't mention a husband unless there was no way around it. And, although I understand that many people are fully committed to a relationship even if they aren't married, I think some employers see boyfriends/girlfriends as more likely to change and thus may not want to hire someone who moves because of that. Unfair and unreasonable but I think it happens.

But, I think the question always is, do you want to work somewhere if they eliminate you for a reason like that? It is why I don't worry about mentioning my kids anymore because if someone doesn't want me because they perceive working mothers as less productive or less committed or whatever then I don't want to work there. This is a luxury however as some people need a job no matter what.

SubKnit StarryJuliet said...

I also moved due to my husband's location, and when I was looking for work there, I said it was due to "a change in my family's situation." That seemed to work fine, as it explained why I was moving and didn't disclose more than the hiring managers needed to know.

Anonymous said...

I moved to a Chicago because my fiance was about to start grad school here, but I phrased my cover letters as AAM suggested: conveying certainty that I was going to move, and a timeframe, but not giving a reason.

As Sara mentions, it was inevitably asked in every interview, and I answered honestly: "I have visited Chicago several times and really enjoyed it, and my fiance has just been accepted to an XX program at XX University, so we're very excited to move here."

While I did have some concerns like the ones Abby noted (will employers take me less seriously because I'm "following" a partner around the country?), I also found that there was a huge upside to citing my real reason for relocation: it shielded me from having to provide any OTHER justification for wanting to leave my previous role. I didn't have to wax political about a "better fit" or "new challenges" or anything like that... my story got to be that I was very happy and thriving at my last company, and I'm now looking for a similar role at a similar organization in a new city. I didn't have to talk about any dissatisfaction I'd had with my last job, which was very freeing. In this way, I consider the "husband excuse" to have been a net benefit.

Anonymous said...

I have never mentioned marital status in cover letters or interviews. What I have said (in my one relocation under such circumstances), instead, is "I'm relocating to be closer to family."

I didn't explain that the family I was referring to was my spouse and children. Likely they assumed that I was referring to some large family tree that would provide me with roots and connections to the area.

It is a little deceptive I suppose, but then, i think it is deceptive for an employer to pretend they care about my reasons for relocating when really they dont care about anything in my personal life.

Anonymous said...

I agree that the "why" should be omitted. I did the same thing when living in the U.S. and applying for jobs in a European country. I left it at "looking to move to ___", but saying "moving to ___ within the next three months" is even better. I was asked about why I wanted to move in every interview that I had, though. But I felt better about explaining it in person (I wanted to move in with my partner) than leaving it in a cover letter.